Vendors bank on The Game

Caroline Nguyen ’13 is looking forward to showing her spirit at her first Game — in part, by purchasing lots of merchandise.

And at the Yale Bowl on Saturday, she will have a chance to do so. For many years, Campus Customs on Broadway, the officially licensed Yale merchandise store, and the Boston Culinary Group, a food vendor based in Cambridge, Mass., have had sole control of concessions at the Yale Bowl on its busiest day of the year, officials from both companies said. Despite Yale’s losing season so far, the officials said they anticipate that the 50,000 attendees expected Saturday will flock to their stands.

Patrick O’Neill, the director of sports marketing for the Yale Athletic Department, said large-scale firms, such as Campus Customs and the Boston Culinary Group, bid for spots at Yale’s main athletic events approximately every five years for five-year contracts. The Athletics Department does not have a preference for local vendors; rather, the department focuses on the quality of the merchandise.

“It’s a financial decision on our part, and we want to go with vendors who we feel best suit what we’re trying to do,” O’Neill said.

He said the Athletics Department prefers to use fewer vendors to ensure the quality of the products being sold, adding that the companies sell clothing and food of reliable quality. The vendors are not contracted for a particular booth but for the right to sell their merchandise on Yale’s property, O’Neill explained.

“We don’t have very many people bidding on it because of the scope of the bid and the commitment that you have to have,” O’Neill said. “It needs to be by a company that can commit to these events.”

He added that the vendors the department chooses tend to be large vendors that specialize in either concession or merchandise sales. At this year’s Game, Campus Customs will supply college merchandise, such as football gear and sweatshirts, for The Game, one of the store’s owners, Jeremy Cobden, said Wednesday.

“It’s all attendance driven,” he said. “We’re expecting 45,000 to 50,000 in attendance, so we’re bringing lots of merchandise.”

Cobden said Campus Customs does not directly sell the merchandise. Rather, it sub-contracts the sales to Hamden-based N&D Athletics, which will sell both Yale and Harvard merchandise at two tents — one on either side of the Bowl. Workers will set up the tents before tailgating starts and will continue to sell until everyone has exited the Bowl, Cobden said.

Although he said he expects Campus Customs will turn a profit this Saturday, he added that attendance at the Game this year is projected to be lower than in past years because of the Bulldogs’ losing streak.

“Last time [in 2007], we were having a great season, so they were predicting a full stadium,” Cobden said. “This year, they’re projecting a less-than-full Bowl, so we won’t bring more merchandise than last time.”

Meanwhile, the Boston Culinary Group, which has an office in Wallingford, Conn., will serve the food Saturday.

At typical Yale football games, the company offers hot dogs, popcorn and hot chocolate, as well as other goodies, at its stands near the entrances and bathrooms of the stadium, its food and beverage manager, Mary Lou Reidel, said Wednesday. But because attendance is typically higher at the Game, the company will also dispatch carts that offer fried dough, baked potatoes and clam chowder, among other foods, she said.

“Hopefully we won’t have long lines, and the clam chowder will help keep people warm,” she said.

Reidel said the Boston Culinary Group serves food at many other Ivy League schools because its owner and CEO, Joseph O’Donnell, is a Harvard graduate.

O’Neill said the Athletics Department is satisfied with the services that both companies have provided over the years.

“We’re very happy with what they do, and our fans seem to like the product,” he said.

Two students interviewed agreed. Jacqueline “Beanie” Meadow ’11 said she cannot wait to sample the offerings this year.

“Fried dough is delicious, especially with powdered sugar,” she said. “Baked potatoes and clam chowder are too healthy for a football game, but it would keep you warm.”

Kick-off for the Game is at 12 p.m., and tailgating will begin at 10 a.m. Parking passes for the Bowl have been sold out since Monday.

Marc Beck contributed reporting.

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